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News agencies started reporting on a disturbing phenomenon in the bee population, in the spring of 2007. It was reported beekeepers were visiting their hives to discover that their bees had disappeared. The queen and a few newly hatched bees were all that remained. The presence of predators feeding on the bees did not leave any evidence of having been there. There was no evidence of dead bees from bee diseases either. Based on the lack of evidence, it seemed unlikely that the bees had gotten sick and died. However, many beekeepers reported that moths, animals, and other bees steered clear of the newly emptied nests. This is a normal reaction when bees die from disease or chemical contamination.
The news reports were alarming. They described beekeepers losing more than half of their bees and explained the importance of honeybees in the pollination of food crops. Some of the articles implied with the disappearance of the bees widespread starvation would follow. The disappearing of bees or otherwise called “Colony Collapse Disorder: is a real phenomenon. It has the potential to impact food and honey production, but it is more complex than it has been reported. The colony collapse disorder has had an effect primarily on the domestic, commercial honeybees. These bees are raised exclusively for producing honey and pollinating crops. It also seems to effect bees from hives that are moved from place to place to pollinate crops. Of the overall bee population, the commercial honeybees make up only a small portion. African honeybees, along with other types of bees, do not seem to be affected.
Also, this is not the first time the honeybee population has suddenly and unexpectedly declined. In the last 100 years beekeepers have reported sharp decreases in their hive populations several time. In 1915, beekeepers in several states reported substantial bee losses. The condition became known as the “Disappearing Disease”. It was not named for the bees disappearing, but because the condition was limited and did not happen again.
Researchers never determined the cause for Disappearing Disease or the declines in bee population, and the causes are still unclear today for the colony collapse disorder. Several possibilities have been ruled out because they are not present in all of the affected colonies. The bees in the affected colonies were all feed using different methods, mites and other pests were controlled in a different way. The bees did not even come from the same supplier. The work group investigating the phenomenon does not suspect genetically altered crops to be the problem.
There are some theories on the causes of colony collapse disorder.
The process of transporting bees over long distances in order to pollinate crops may cause stress, which has depressed the bees’ immune system, exposed them to additional diseases or affected their navigational abilities.
Mites generally feeding on the bees may be exposing the bees to an unknown virus. Mites have caused colony collapse in the past, but they have also left evidence, which is not the case in colony collapse disorders.
One common theory regarding cell phones as the culprit, but it has been discounted. This theory made the news in April, 2007, “The Independent” who featured the article about a study being done on the cell phones and linking them to the bee disappearance, they failed to dig deep enough for their story. The study was not related to cell phones, but was on the electromagnetic energy coming from the base units of cordless phones. A cordless phone uses a different wavelength than the cell phone.
It is unknown exactly where the honeybee species is headed or exactly how the drop in the population of the bee will affect the world’s food supply. The drop in population in all likelihood not lead to the sudden extinction of the human race, it is going to have an l effect on what we eat if it continues.
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